Let me start off that, yes, there was a lot of buzz about the launch of the American Express Cobalt Card back in 2017 so the anticipation for it was big. The card has now been around for five years and continues to dominate the Canadian market as the best travel rewards card and one of the best cash back cards in Canada. The card underwent changes in 2021 that made it even better – something that is very rare to see these days especially when the card was already so good!
The American Express Cobalt Card was the first card in Canada to offer up to a 5% return that wasn’t limited to the first few months of having the card. This card is targeted towards Millennials but that doesn’t mean people outside of that generation shouldn’t look at the card. I’m not a Millennial and I have the card. Same goes for my wife. There’s two people outside the target market who have the card. In fact this is a card that everyone and anyone in Canada should have in their wallet.
Costs & Sign up Features
The American Express Cobalt Card charges $12.99 per month for having it which equates to an annual fee of $155.88. That fee works out to be slightly higher than the $120 to $150 a year we see on competing cards but it is so worth it. You should also know that additional cards come at no cost so there is a savings there in adding authorized users versus many of the competitors.
Right now the American Express Cobalt Card has its standard welcome bonus of up to 30,000 Membership Rewards points. One might ask how can a card company avoid people taking advantage of such a big bonus with only a small monthly fee and someone cancelling the card? You make the bonus monthly, that’s how! Simply putting $500 in spending on your card during a billing cycle will net you 2,500 Membership Rewards Points for the first 12 months. Ideally then you need to spend $6,000 in the first year (12x$500) to earn 30,000 points. If you miss out on $500 spending in any of those first 12 months you will miss out on the bonus for that month, so it is key you keep on top of your spending and make that $500 per month for those first 12 months.
The interest rate on the card is 20.99% on purchases. 21.99% on cash advances and balance transfers. Like all American Express card there are no minimum annual income requirements set out for the card
The card earns Membership Rewards points like other proprietary American Express cards and has category multipliers on the types of purchases:
- 5 Points per dollar spent at eligible restaurants, bars, grocery stores and food delivery in Canada*
- 3 Points per dollar spent on select streaming services purchases
- 2 Points per dollar spent on eligible transit & gas purchases in Canada and eligible travel purchases*
- 1 Points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases
* Amex legally has to state Canada however many of the multipliers work worldwide
To see where you can earn these multipliers be sure to check out our American Express Cobalt™ Card Confirmed Multiplier Locations which lists hundreds of retailers from around the world where you can earn 5x, 2x and 1x points.
Point Valuation Chart
|Spending Category||Points earned per dollar spent||Rate of return when booking your own travel||Rate of return Cash Back||Rate of return when booking Amex’s Fixed Points for Travel||Rate of return when converting to airline & hotel programs|
|Restaurants, bars, grocery stores and food delivery||5||5%||5%||up to 10%||5% to 30% or higher|
|Select streaming services||3||3%||3%||up to 6%||3% to 18% or higher|
|Transit, Gas, Travel||2||2%||2%||up to 4%||2% to 12% or higher|
|All other spending||1||1%||1%||up to 2%||1% to 6% or higher|
The American Express Cobalt Card participates in Amex’s Membership Rewards program which is the best credit card reward program in Canada as it has so many valuable redemption options. You can redeem points for any travel you book with the card, you can redeem points for any purchase you make on the card, you can redeem via Amex’s Fixed Points for Travel and you can convert your points to Air Canada Aeroplan, Air France KLM Flying Blue, British Airways Executive Club, Marriott Bonvoy and numerous other programs.
Use Points for Purchases
If you redeem using the Use Points for Purchases option, you will get a $10 credit towards every 1,000 points redeemed for a purchase. This means the purchases you make on food and drinks will equate to a 5% return.
Fixed Points Travel
Moving on to the Fixed Points Travel Program, the card provides great value here as well. Being able to earn up to 5 points per dollar means you can be flying for as little as $3,000 in spending on this card and provides up to a 10% return on those food and drink purchases. Here are the Fixed Points award charts:
From the above you’ll see you only need 15,000 points for popular short haul round trip flights. Make that spending with 5x multipliers and you have that ticket for only $3,000. You will not achieve that with any other card in Canada. Even business class to Europe is an amazing deal, only $28,000 in spending at 5x points gets you that round trip flight to Europe. Compare this to nearly double that for most other cards in Canada that allow you to redeem for business class. The Fixed Points Travel Program has proven to be a large success for American Express and is most valuable when combined with the Cobalt Card.
Transfers to partners
Finally, another huge and I mean huge benefit to the redemption side of this card is the ability to convert to Membership Rewards Frequent Traveller participants. As of August 16, 2021 the Cobalt Card gained access to all of American Express’ transfer partners including Air Canada Aeroplan and British Airways Executive Club. This is on top of the hotel transfer partners that card already had. With minimum point values of 1 cent for Marriott, 1.5 cents for Aeroplan and British Airways you are looking at returns of 7.5% for that 5x points earning. But that’s a minimum – there are so many occasions where you can get 3, 4 or even more cents per points with this programs that puts the Cobalt’s return easily into double digits!
Features and Benefits
As with all American Express Cards the card comes with American Express Invites which includes Front Of The Line® Advance Access, Front Of The Line® Reserved Tickets, Front Of The Line® E-Updates, Special Offers & Experiences for all Cardmembers and Social Access for all Cardmembers.
The card comes with a pretty strong insurance package that includes Emergency Medical Insurance (Out of province/country), Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance, Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance, Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance, Flight Delay Insurance and $250,000 Travel Accident Insurance.
What is good about this card
The full time earn rate of five points per dollar spend on food and drink is absolutely to die for. This translates to a minimum 5% return for travel or cash back. No card provides that sort of return on both those types of redemptions. With the direct conversion in place to Aeroplan now as well the Cobalt Card is in fact the number one Aeroplan point earning card in Canada. Don’t want to take our word for it? Just check out feature Which credit card earns the most Aeroplan Points? to see for yourself.
The sign up bonus is another strong point, up to 30,000 points is worth a minimum of $300 towards travel or cash back.
What is not so good about this card
As many of you know American Express has lower acceptance than Visa or Mastercard so there will be occasions where you cannot use this card to pay for items. Depending on where you live or travel, American Express does state that they are accepted at roughly between 80 and 90% of locations that take the other two brands of cards.
Lastly, some people may not like that the card does not have any Trip Interruption or Trip Cancellation insurance. Plus the out of province emergency medical coverage is good for only 15 days where as other premium cards are as high as 31 days or more.
Who should get this card
- Every person in Canada who is eligible to get a credit card should get this card.
- Consumers who buy a lot of food and drinks
- Consumers who travel lots or take transit on a regular basis
- Consumer who want to make sure they are getting the highest possible return on select category spending
- Consumers who want to earn the most possible Aeroplan Points, British Airways Avios and points and miles with other airline and hotel programs
Ever since the Cobalt Card was introduced other cards in Canada have been inching their way up to offering higher standard category bonuses however this card still takes top spot no matter what the competition has done. American Express did their research and made a card that is great for all Canadian. They’ve taken what they already do good with, rewards, and made them even better with this card. The combination of great earning potential, a large sign up bonus, awesome redemption options and a decent insurance package make this card an all around winner.
Many of our rankings, ultimate wallets and more all feature this card simply because it is the best. When it was released it was about time a Canadian card issuer had the balls to make a card with such strong earning potential and having it as a limited time thing, rather something to reward you all the time.
If you don’t have an Amex card in your wallet or even if you do, this is one you should strongly consider adding. I did. My wife did. Our kids have supplementary cards, I mean those additional cards are free so why not? And I know many others have done the same as well. It may be targeted to Millennials but there will be many a Gen Xer and even some Gen Zers who have or will be getting the card, and why not? Five points per dollar on the utmost necessity of Food and Drink? It’s a no brainer.